Bears replace Vic Fangio with former Colts coach Chuck Pagano as defensive coordinator

Two days after losing Vic Fangio to the Broncos, the Bears have found their replacement for him. On Friday night, Chicago hired former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano as their new defensive coordinator. 

"We are excited to add Chuck to our staff as defensive coordinator," Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a statement, per the team's website. "He has successful experience at many different levels in this league and he is a great teacher with an aggressive mentality that fits our style of football. He is a man of high character and has a passion for the game that will no doubt add to the culture we have already started building at Halas Hall." 

Pagano is best remembered for his six years as the Colts coach, during which he officially (Bruce Arians went 9-3 record as the interim coach while Pagano underwent cancer treatment) posted a 53-43 record and helped the team reach the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. Fired after three straight playoff-less seasons, Pagano didn't coach in 2018. Now, he'll return to the NFL by taking what is, quite simply, the most attractive defensive coordinator opening.

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Under Fangio's direction over the past four seasons, the Bears emerged as the league's best defense. This past season, after landing Khalil Mack on the eve of the season, the Bears' defense ranked third in yards allowed, first in points allowed, tied for third in sacks, first in takeaways, and first in DVOA en route to the NFC North crown. The vast majority of starters will be returning, with only safety Adrian Amos and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan's contract statuses in doubt -- at least one of the two should be brought back. The only major change will be at coordinator, due to Fangio's departure. 

Before his days as the Colts coach, Pagano built his resume as a defensive coach. In 2011, as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, he coached a defense that ranked third in yards allowed, third in points allowed, and first in DVOA. It's probably the best outside hire the Bears could've made after watching Todd Bowles join the Buccaneers earlier this week. Another option would've been to promote defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who interviewed for the job, according to the Chicago Tribune. After the Bears picked Pagano, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see Donatell join Fangio in Denver.

The Bears' defensive coordinator opening was the best job available, but because of that, it also comes with a fair amount of pressure. It's not easy following in Fangio's footsteps. Even if Fangio hadn't gotten the Broncos job, there's a decent chance the Bears' defense would've regressed anyway. For one, the Bears stayed, for the most part, healthy on defense. And two, the Bears relied pretty heavily on takeaways. Both are areas that can fluctuate from one year to the next.

The fact remains that the Bears' job is a tremendous opportunity for Pagano to reestablish himself in the NFL. Not many coaches would pass up the chance to coach a unit that features the likes of Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, and Eddie Jackson. The Bears defense is littered with quality players. Even if the turnovers dry up, they should remain one of the better defenses in football under Pagano's direction.

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CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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